Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4

“Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved”

And here we are, my favourite series of Doctor Who. So much huge wonderfulness and even its less good moments are still more than halfway decent. Key to the series’ success is Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble – gobby and one-dimensional in her introductory episode the Christmas special The Runaway Bride, her character journey throughout this season is magisterially constructed, a true awakening of self (with thankfully no romantic inclinations towards our Time Lord) and one given unbearable poignancy due to its frustratingly tragic end.

It’s also one of the best constructed series in terms of its over-arching season arc, its warnings and clues layered meaningfully into several stories and building into a momentous and properly climactic finale, which lands just about the right level of grandiosity. There’s also the first companion-lite episode (the superbly creepy Midnight) to go with the Doctor-lite one (the achingly beautiful dystopian Turn Left); a typically brilliant Moffat double-header in  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead with gorgeous work from Alex Kingston as the soon-to-be-hugely-significant River Song; and if the return of Rose undoes some of the emotional impact of the Series 2 finale, Billie Piper’s work is spikily powerful. These are episodes I can, and have, watched over and over again.

Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4”

DVD Review: Crime and Punishment (2002)

“Oh we’ll make him suffer, but will he make himself?”

This 2002 BBC2 adaptation of Crime and Punishment by Tony Marchant is a rather good bit of television – it may be a goodly while since I read Dostoevsky’s novel but it struck me as a respectful interpretation of the story, though not overly so, and one which makes the most of the televisual approach. Directed by Julian Jarrold, it employs a vivid array of camerawork – from jerky handheld work to epic sweeps of the St Petersburg location – to really capture the idiosyncrasies of the story. 

Jarrold really takes us into the mind of impoverished student Raskolnikov, a man who makes a virtue of his immorality in coming up with a plan to murder an unscrupulous pawnbroker as a justifiable good deed to the world at large. Fevered dream sequences, intensely visceral interactions, we delve right into his highly disorientated state of being as he struggles to ratify his choices in the face of their impact on his friends and family and as the law encroaches in on him. Continue reading “DVD Review: Crime and Punishment (2002)”

Review: An Enemy of the People, New Diorama

“If we took a vote now, whose side would you be on?”

The works of Henrik Ibsen are often cited as some of the greatest committed to paper but though his plays are frequently performed, they are rarely adapted, seldom excised from their 19th century Norwegian settings to explore how they might resonate in a more contemporary context. David Harrower had a go at putting Ibsen into the 1970s with Public Enemy for the Young Vic earlier this year but Rebecca Manson Jones has brought the same play – An Enemy of the People – bang up to date with this new adaptation which is now playing at the New Diorama Theatre after a tour of London and the South West of England. 

She places the play in a modern-day but fictional small town on the Cornish coast – Porth Kregg – which is finding its way out of economic depression through a co-operative owned health spa, run by the Stockmann siblings. But when the ethical business ethos of one is compromised by the environmentally unsound supplier found by the other, the convictions of all concerned are challenged as the whole community is forced to identify what they consider to be more important – the health of the planet versus the weight of their purse. And it’s a question that we as the audience are also asked to contemplate, in a way that shapes the play itself. Continue reading “Review: An Enemy of the People, New Diorama”